Album Review : Blight - The Teachings + Death Reborn (2016)
I love black metal. It might not be your cup of tea, but I know of no other musical style (or subgenre, whatever), which can marry the pure fucking ferocity of death metal with complex emotions and (often dark) intellectual pursuits. In other words, it's angry but it's not just angry.
There's a good chance you don't know who Blight is, but there's a great example of why black metal is awesome and today I'm going to tell you about The Teachings + Death Reborn, a compilation of their first two EPs recently reissued by Black Market Metal Label.
This review might not make a black metal fan out of you, but keep in mind: this is music that chooses you more than you choose it.
First thing you should know about The Teachings + Death Reborn is that it contains two EPs recorded three years apart, so they sound quite different. The five first songs on this compilation are more sophisticated and multilayered than their counterparts. They're more controlled and much, much more recent. There are two factors I believe made this album unique in the black metal landscape, where too many band are content with trying to re-record old Mayhem albums like Deathcrush or De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Gabriel McCaughry's inspired vocal performance and Rob Lapalme's splendid and multifaceted drum work.
So, let's talk about these for a second. I've said it before on this site, McCaughry is one of my favorite metal vocalists working today, but I find his work with Blight to be some of his most focused and commanding. I don't know any black metal frontmen who sound like that. His voice is a notch lower and there's a satisfying sliver of anger to it that'll light a fire under your ass. And he's not just a one trick pony either. He'll explode on a song like Death Reborn like he was breathing fire and modulate his voice to tell and intricate story on songs like Magna Arcana and VoidLight.
There's even a little bit of clean singing at the end of the latter, but the mix makes it unclear whether it's him or a support vocalist. Anyway, the range is what Gabriel McCaughry can do while screaming his lungs out is impressive.
Now, let's talk about Rob Lapalme's inspired, impeccable and fiercely original drum work. Because that's another thing that set my mind abalze. That dude is good and completely unpredictable. Most black metal drummers are happy just to blast beat they way through every song, but not him. And when he does, like on Magna Arcana for example, he works them in dramatically like they're a tragedy chorus. He makes them part of the very apex of the song. Otherwise, he ranges self-effacing to proto-punk on Sovereign [Suffering] Gestalt to ritualistic pounding on Gnostic Dirge. Lapalme's work is a testament to how great drumming can take improve and layer songs.
My favorite song on The Teachings + Death Reborn is Gnostic Dirge, which has this slow, predatory, almost thudding tempo. The riffage on it offers a strong counterpoint to the aforementioned ritualistic drumming, which creates this rich and terrifying atmosphere, like the song was emerging from primordial darkness. I've also greatly enjoyed Magna Arcana and VoidLight for their intricate composition and narratives and also Death Reborn and Cernuous for the murderous outpourings of anger. They are great songs to either pump yourself up or burn your wordly possessions to.
Composition and performances are the two variables that make The Teachings + Death Reborn such a powerful experience. It is the work of passionate musicians pouring themselves into their art. Blight take no shortcuts and use no black metal clichés in their songwriting. The lyrics are so deeply Luciferan that they would probably warrant more research to truly grasp the greater meaning at play here (and I don't doubt there is one), but the passion, the performances and the otherworldly vision of apocalypse are more than enough to carry this album. Blight's The Teachings + Death Reborn showcases what black metal has best to offer.
It's an angry, sophisticated and passionate work of art.